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Montgomery County Law

New Sentencing Guidelines

I just got a copy of the sentencing guidelines that go into effect on October 1 of this year. The report says that these guidelines are voluntary, apparently until 2020 at which time it appears that they become mandatory. The Alabama sentencing Commission issued the report by the authority of Act 2012-473. The Act required the Commission to make necessary

modifications to the Sentencing Standards to transition from voluntary sentencing to presumptive sentencing for non-violent offenses in 2013. It requires the commission to present Truth-in-Sentencing Standards to the Legislature by the 2020 session, among several other requirements.

You just about have to be a lawyer or Judge to understand the guidelines set out in this report. Basically, it appears that the sentencing of a person found guilty of a crime is accomplished by filling out worksheets on the crime or crimes that a person has been convicted of. There are three categories of crimes, Personal crimes, Drug crimes and Property crimes. For each offense type, there is an In/Out worksheet and a Sentence length worksheet. Each sheet has a set of statistically relevant sentencing factors specific to each offense type. These factors include: most serious current offense, other offenses being sentenced at the current sentencing event, prior convictions, previous incarcerations, juvenile/youthful offender adjudications, etc. The worksheets will result in a score that is calculated based on the information provided for each factor. Each factor has a number of points assigned and the points are totaled up for a sentence. I would attempt to explain how the worksheet/point system works but it is just too far above my head. I just wish the District Attorneys and Judges good luck in figuring it out.

According to this report drug and property offenders are slightly less likely to go to prison than under historic sentencing practices. Offenders convicted of personal crimes (violent type crimes) are slightly more likely to receive a prison sentence. Drug and property offenders are likely to receive a slightly shorter sentence, while the sentence recommendation for violent offenders is likely to be somewhat longer. It is very apparent to me that these guidelines were developed to send fewer criminals to prison thus helping to relieve the overcrowding in our state prisons. This looks like just another step in the criminal justice system that is in favor of the criminal and, again. the victim comes out on the short end of the stick.

It also appears that these guidelines may help shift the criminal population from the state prisons and increase the population in the county jails. If it does, it will follow the trends of the past several years of putting more burdens on local taxpayers to ease the burden of the state budget. It is time that the state start handling their responsibilities and stop passing the buck. A good example of this is the broken mental health system. Years ago the state started shirking their responsibility in funding the mental health system thus making the local jails basically mental health facilities. Now it looks like they are going down the same path in the criminal justice system. You will see more and more do good programs for these criminals and you will be seeing more of them not being punished for their crimes.


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